Gareth Bale set to re-sign with Tottenham – But is it a good deal for the Welshman?

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Gareth Bale is ready to commit at least one more year to Tottenham Hotspur after agreeing in principle to a new contract with improved wage terms and a release clause that can be triggered at the end of next season.

While the contractual specifics are still being worked out, The Guardian is reporting that Bale’s new salary will top off at £150,000 per week and that the deal will likely include a £50m release clause that can be triggered at the close of next season. The contract would represent a significant wage increase on Bale’s current deal where he’s already Spurs’ highest-ever wage earner at £100,000 a week.

The current contract, which Bale signed last July, still has three years remaining on the deal. If formally offered, the new deal would mark the sixth contract Spurs have offered Bale in six years at the club. And apparently, the club isn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer as chairman Daniel Levy has informed Bale that there is no prospect of him being sold this summer.

No prospect? How does Daniel Levy figure?

Has he already forgotten what happened when he tried to pin down Luka Modric with this ‘no sale’ line of bull? That’s what Levy told the Crotian playmaker in the summer of 2011 when he expressed his desire to move on to a larger club. And for 12 months Modric sat in the corner like a child on ‘time-out’ with his face buried in his hands, bewildered and lost. Until finally, one of his peers finally nudged him and explained that regardless of the drivel that comes out of his shafting chairman’s mouth, Modric, is the one with the real power.

And so he walked. Went AWOL. Gonzo. And what happened?

It worked. Modric got his transfer to Real Madrid while Levy pissed and moaned over accepting a £30m transfer fee.

Point being, Bale needs to know that he is the one with the power here. Not Levy.

Bale is the one with the speed of a cheetah and heart of a lion. Bale is the one with the blessed left foot and the ability to dominate in any number of positions on the field. Bale is the one who’s 21 league goals earned him the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year, PFA’s Young Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and the Barclay’s Premier League Player of the Year.

So why would Bale want to stay at Spurs?

First and foremost, he’s a homebody who likes to be close to his family. Makes sense. The £50,000 increase in salary also makes a difference as well. Not to mention the fact that Bale has a new endorsement with BT Sport and that he genuinely seems to like the Spurs family. All good reasons.

So why should the Welshman consider leaving White Hart Lane?

It starts with money. Let’s be honest – £150,000 per week is not a lot of dough, especially when you’re the best player in the league. At that rate he’ll still be miles behind the likes of Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, who are all on more than £200,000 per week. Ridiculous.

Yes, one could argue that if he were to join Real Madrid or Barcelona he would have to give up as much as half of his image rights, but he’d be doing so at a major salary increase and on a better platform to command greater endorsements. For example, Bale currently has a modest Adidas deal worth approximately £2m a year. If he were playing at either of the Spanish giants or a club like Bayern Munich, there’s little doubt that Adidas would be doubling or tripling that money.

A move to the continent would also provide Bale with Champions League football. It’s a stage that all the best footballers want to perform on but for someone like Bale – who, as a Welshman, is unlikely to ever play in the World Cup or the Euros – it’s absolutely crucial. Another season of bashing around in the Europa League simply isn’t going to do him any good, physically or psychologically.

Finally, a move to a larger club will reduce the weight on his shoulders. Contrary to popular opinion, Spurs are by no means a ‘one-man club’ but there’s no getting around the fact that by scoring nine game-winning goals he handed his club an additional 18 points, the difference between finishing 5th and 8th. He simply can’t be expected to duplicate that feat next year. And, if surrounded by the world-class players of Barca, Madrid or Munich, he won’t be expected to do so.

What a relief that could be.

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

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The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden

Watch Live: England, Mexico, Spain, France in U-17 World Cup action

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It is a busy day at the U-17 World Cup in India as four Round of 16 games take place.

[ LIVE: Stream U-17 World Cup ] 

Red-hot England play Japan, while France and Spain collide and Mexico clash with a very impressive Iran side who won all of their group games. Mali and Iraq complete the Round of 16 games on Tuesday.

The winners of the England v. Japan game will face the U.S. on Saturday after they blew away Paraguay 5-0 on Monday.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s four games, while you can click on the link above to watch all four games live.

Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup Round of 16 games

Iran vs. Mexico – 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Spain – 7:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Japan – 10:30 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Iraq – 10:30 a.m. ET

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

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ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.